Responding to the crisis in Afghanistan

The crisis in Afghanistan is unfolding rapidly; on the news there have been horrifying images of Afghans desperately trying to get on planes out of the country, people sharing how the Taliban are going door to door kidnapping individuals they deem a threat, and legitimate fears about the cost to human life and freedoms we are likely to see.

The UK government have announced an initial resettlement plan for Afghan refugees. This is to be welcomed, but many have said this isn’t urgent or ambitious enough. There is more to be done.

How do we as Christians respond to this crisis?

One of the things we see throughout the Bible is the movement of people from one part of the world to another. God’s people are encouraged to welcome and care for those who are displaced or far from home. Provision is made in the Torah to ensure those on the edge of society can find food (Deuteronomy 14:28-29), that people who are new to a land are treated the same as existing citizens, and that strangers are not ill-treated or taken advantage off (Exodus 22:21).

In the New Testament we are encouraged to accept strangers with open arms, to treat them as equals (Colossians 3:11) and to offer hospitality (Romans 12:13).

As Christians, we are called to be beacons of hope and people of welcome to all. Now, more than ever, we are being asked to hold these values before us and extend the hand of welcome to fearful and terrorised people.

Here are three ways in which you can respond:

  1. Pray: Lift the situation in Afghanistan to God in prayer as you read things in the news. Pray particularly for vulnerable marginalised groups and for women and children. Pray for safe passage for those escaping the country. Pray for peace. You can also use this prayer.
  2. Show your support for refugees: Send a personalised email to your MP and local authority to let them know you want our nation to welcome refugees. Christian Concern for One World have produced template emails to help you with this (as well as other suggested action points).
  3. Act: The situation is still unfolding so it will be clearer what the specific needs are in coming days and weeks. At the moment, most councils and organisations are saying that no further material donations are needed but this may change in time. The diocese are having conversations with several organisations to see if there are specific things our parishes can do to help. For now, here’s a couple of things you can do:
    • Join the Welcome Churches network to let them know your church is wanting to help. They will be able to link you to hotels where afghans are currently living and to households when they are eventually rehoused in longer-term housing in towns and villages.
    • Investigate community sponsorship to see if your church could welcome and support a refugee family.
    • Give financially to organisations (like Asylum Welcome) as they provide more support and resources to the Afghan community. Organisations will value any financial donations or fundraising (secondhand items are not generally being collected as they are timely and expensive to sort, and not of sufficient quality).

You can also read this helpful toolkit for supporting Afghan refugees from the Church of England which summarises the context, organisations to support, and other ways to offer help.

How important is it that churches come together to help refugees?

The Revd Liz Jackson, associate archdeacon of Berkshire, speaks to BBC Radio Oxford’s Lilley Mitchell about how churches and Christians can play their part.

“It’s about… local churches and local community groups offering places where people can feel safe, where they can learn English, where they can make friends…”

How can local Christians help?

Watch this video from Krish Kandiah and Oxford charity Homes with Purpose, share it in your Sunday service and register for an information evening.

Migration conference

IN early December, a conference, entitled ‘Discerning a Path on Migration’ will bring together UK and Swedish Christians to reflect on five key questions, including border policies, integration, identity, access to services and the language used around migration. The conference is being undertaken by the Diocese of Oxford and Diocese of Växjö in response to the needs of congregations in both places – and in the hope that the diversity of experiences from within our dioceses will enrich our reflections.

Working groups, convened in advance, will be producing short papers on these questions. The papers will, following the conference discussions, be edited and gathered to form a resource that helps members of our churches to undertake similar reflection. The endeavour is being chaired by Michael Taylor, the former Director of Christian Aid with support from the Department of Mission and the Council of Partners in World Mission. The Revd Tony Dickinson, the Chair of the Växjö link, said: “This is another example of the way in which the similarities and differences between our two situations enriches us both as we strive towards God’s kingdom of justice and love.”

If you have experience in issues around migration get in touch with A resource for parishes will be produced in 2018.